Sunday, December 05, 2010

Don't Follow the Leader

"In the final chapter, Seeley suggests five lessons we could learn from bees.
• Compose a decision-making group of individuals with shared interests. Here bees have a higher stake than us: all members of a colony are related (sisters) and nobody can survive without the group.
• Minimise the leader's influence on the group. Here we humans have much to learn.
• Seek diverse solutions to the problem. Humans realised only recently that diversity is good for a group.
• Update the group's knowledge through debate. Here again, bees are superior to us, as each scout's "dances" become less effective with time, no matter how good a new site is, while stubbornness can lead humans to argue forever.
• Use quorums to gain cohesion, accuracy and speed. Impressively, bees came up with this concept long before the Greeks."
That is Tyler Cowen, discussing Thomas Seeley's new book Honeybee Democracy.  These points resonate with my own experience.